A judge ruled Thursday that a Tesla Model S driver could be prosecuted for the 2019 crash that killed two people in Garda.
The case is the first criminal trial in the US against a driver using widely available partial autopilot technology.
At a preliminary hearing in Compton, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Teresa P. Magno found there was enough evidence to prosecute 27-year-old Kevin George Aziz Riyadh on two counts of vehicular homicide.
Prosecutors allege that Riyadh was reckless and reckless when Tesla hit a Honda Civic at 74 mph near the intersection of Artesia Boulevard and Vermont Avenue on December 29, 2019, where the 91 freeway transitions to a road. does.
Gilberto Alcázar López, 40, of Rancho Dominguez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-López, 39, of Linwood, who lives in Civic, were pronounced dead at the scene.
They were on their first date that night, relatives said on Thursday.
Prosecutors said Tesla’s Autosteer and Traffic Aware cruise control were activated when it blew a red light and hit a Honda.
LAPD Officer Alvin Lee testified Thursday that several traffic signs warning drivers to slow down were posted at the end of the freeway. He said Riyadh told police he was driving through Orange County with his girlfriend, and that only smoke and airbags were deployed before he was taken to hospital.
Riyadh’s attorney, Arthur Barrens, asked the judge to downplay the misdemeanor charges, arguing that any negligence by his client would have resulted if a fatal accident had not occurred. The judge rejected the motion.
Prosecutor Brandi Chase said Riyadh “did nothing to prevent the accident.”
Sensors in the Model S indicated that Riyadh’s hand was on the steering wheel and at the point of the collision, Tesla engineer Aloy Rubio Blanco testified. Crash data showed that the steering wheel was centered, no apparent attempt to change direction was made, and no brakes were applied in the six minutes prior to the accident.
On its website, Tesla says that cars using its Autopilot technology “must be driven by a completely attentive driver, who keeps his hand on the wheel and is ready to take on any moment.” Rubio Blanco said the system would only work if the torque sensor in the steering wheel detects that someone is at the wheel.
The case against Riyadh is not the first to include an automated driving system, but it is the first to include commercially available driver technology.
Officials in Arizona charged Uber with negligent manslaughter in 2020 for taking part in a trial of a fully autonomous vehicle on public roads. The Uber vehicle, an SUV carrying a human backup driver, rammed and killed a pedestrian.
The US government’s Road Safety Agency has sent a team to investigate whether a Tesla was operating on a partially automated driving system involved in the May 12 Newport Beach crash that killed three people.